Never judge a book by its cover. I’m afraid that one glimpse at the ginger cat and the book was in my hand, the blurb sounded promising. Not as promising as the name. Lolly Willowes. I was already imaging reading the book reclining under the weeping willow in my Grandparents’ garden whilst idly consuming an ice lolly. No matter that my Grandparents have been dead for over a quarter of a century, the house long sold and a quick squint on Google earth reveals the tree to be no more. It went straight onto my birthday list and my Brother obligingly gave it to me. Thank you.
Laura Willowes is a 28 year-old spinster when her Father dies at the turn of the nineteenth century. Her brothers decide that she should go and live with the elder of the pair in London far from her home in rural Shropshire. For twenty years she stays becoming docile Aunt Lolly. One day she passes a florist on Moscow Road and buys so many flowers that the florist throws in some beech leaves to add to the display. She is so drawn by the leaves that she enquires where they come from and buys a guidebook to the area.
Great Mop, a tiny village in the Chilterns, attracts her attention and much to her family’s shock she announces that she is going to go and live there on her own. Surrounded by beech forests and gently rolling hills, Lolly becomes Laura again and more. She kicks over all traces of her former genteel life in a shocking manner. I loved this book. Written in 1926, it predates ‘A Room of One’s Own’ but proclaims the same message in a much more accessible way.
Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner. Price £7.99 paperback, £4.35 Kindle
Published by Virago.